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[The Music Issue]

Vegas music notables gush about their all-time favorite shows

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The Grateful Dead’s ’90s Vegas stadium shows remain legendary.
Darrin Bush/Las Vegas News Bureau

Think about the best shows you’ve ever seen, the nights the bands took it someplace special, when primo performance met superb sound, and your wish-list songs rained upon you. We asked a group of local music movers and fans to do just that, with a couple tricky caveats. First, they could pick just one, one Vegas concert to rule them all. Or, to be more exact, one act—all-day festivals had to be whittled down to a single great set. And second, our respondents were restricted from choosing shows they had some working attachment to; if they played it, booked it or promoted it, no-go. Here’s what we got back …

Guns N’ Roses, January 25, 1992, Thomas & Mack Center. At that time the Thomas & Mack was something of a holy place due to the massive popularity of the UNLV basketball team. They opened with “Welcome to the Jungle,” then went straight into “Mr. Brownstone.” Axl changed wardrobes every other song and had a swagger I’ve never quite seen from any other rock star. It was a spectacle for me as a 12-year-old boy that’s burned into my memory. –Ryan Pardey, musician (Halloween Town)/DJ

The Cure, May 27, 2000, the Joint. If there’s one Vegas live set I could revisit, The Cure’s headswimming, epic (read: three encores) concert at the old Joint would beat out shows that I reviewed more favorably. Robert Smith and company—all clearly in great spirits—leveled the room despite some sound issues, and the 27-song setlist featured my favorite classics and six of nine tracks from its underappreciated Bloodflowers album. –Mike Prevatt, Las Vegas Weekly senior editor

Things got wild when Of Montreal played Art Bar in 2007.

Things got wild when Of Montreal played Art Bar in 2007.

Peccadilloes, August 9, 2007, Double Down Saloon. They had so much energy, and the music was honest and pure without pretense. Sandy Moreno, standing on a milk crate, and just spewing vitriol. She made me angry at stuff I didn’t even understand yet. Hell, I left that show wanting to turn over a police car and stop paying my taxes. Because of that one show I started following other Vegas bands and discovered so much great music. –Allan Carter, SquidHat Records label head

Of Montreal, February 13, 2007, Art Bar. Downtown was just starting to become a live music area again, and Art Bar was an awesome divey place behind Dino’s that occasionally held shows. [Promoters] Brandy Vinyl [and Travis [Price] managed to get Of Montreal to play there, and it was epic! 1970s gay porn was projected behind the band, and [frontman] Kevin Barnes went the full monty live onstage for four or five songs. It was crazy. –James Woodbridge, Neon Reverb Festival co-founder

Sonny Fortune, date unknown, Blue Note Jazz Club. A weeklong residency [the saxophonist] did in July 2002. Easily one of the greatest weeks in my life! I got to interview him on KUNV, then see him live for four nights! I miss the Blue Note! We need more jazz in Vegas! –George Lyons, radio host (KUNV’s The Lyons Den)

Gov’t Mule, April 23, 2004, the Joint. My favorite Las Vegas concert experience was an accident. I had some tickets to see Little Feat and some band I’d never heard of. We got there about a half-hour after the show started, thinking we’d be right on time for the headliner. We were correct, but wrong about who was headlining. We stayed for Gov’t Mule and were completely blown away by their incredible musicianship. –Ginger Bruner, musician (Killian’s Angels)

Moonface, September 15, 2012, Beauty Bar. Spencer Krug sang his heart out, beating his chest with a tambourine so vigorously I’m surprised the instrument didn’t break in two. That album, Heartbreaking Bravery, will go down as one of my favorite records of all time; and hearing it live with backing band Sinai made each song so tangible. Also, I brought my mom. –Leslie Ventura, Las Vegas Weekly calendar editor

Spencer Krug sang his heart out at Beauty Bar in 2012.

Spencer Krug sang his heart out at Beauty Bar in 2012.

Marilyn Manson, February 23, 2013, House of Blues. I’ve never seen such a well-produced show where every set had something new to it, a costume change or a new prop. He was 100 percent committed to whatever he has doing, and to the drama of his music. It was really inspiring to me as a performer to see him step up visually onstage. –CoCo Jenkins, musician (Rhyme N Rhythm)

Prince, May 29 or 30, 2004, Mandalay Bay Events Center. 1. It’s Prince! 2. You got the new CD with your ticket purchase. 3. His band was second to none for that tour. 4. I’ve seen him 20-plus times, and this was the longest. 5. To hear a band with a pocket like theirs, with a frontman like him, with songs that make you get up and give your date a lap dance in the middle of the show is a decent way to spend an evening! –Shawn Eiferman, musician

Neutral Milk Hotel, April 9, 1998, the Lab. They played at a house party at Patrick and Eastern. At that point, they were mythical, but it was really happening. It wasn’t like you saw a band and you could say, “I saw so-and-so before they got huge.” You were like, Holy sh*t, Neutral Milk Hotel is playing three feet from my face—in a house where people you knew lived. –Donald Hickey, radio DJ (KUNV’s Neon Reverb)

Catherine Wheel, date unknown, the Huntridge. It was 1993, I think. They wrecked my brain. They had this incredible washy sound and lasers. LASERS! I was in high school at the time, but I still listen to those first two records and think of that night. Magic. –Ronnie Vannucci, musician (The Killers/Big Talk)

Maceo Parker, October 28, 2006, House of Blues. Missed Tom Petty headlining Vegoose because of work. Bummed. Thought I was going to miss this show, too, but Daylight Saving Time messed up the band and saved me. Arrived at 2 a.m. just as the show started, and an hour in Prince jumped onstage and joined the band. Music euphoria commenced. –Craig Nyman, Life Is Beautiful Festival booker

Roger Daltrey and The Who played the entirety of <em>Quadrophenia</em> (and then some) at the Joint in 2013.

Roger Daltrey and The Who played the entirety of Quadrophenia (and then some) at the Joint in 2013.

The Who, February 8, 2013, the Joint. They played the whole Quadrophenia album and then some. Pete’s suspended power chords still hit you like an ice pick in the forehead, and Roger’s voice was as powerful as ever. During “Love, Reign O’er Me” I had tears in my eyes realizing how much The Who had affected me as a kid. These ol’ kids are still all right. –Elvis Lederer, musician (Unique Massive/Uberschall/Cirque du Soleil)

Ted Leo vs. F*cked Up, October 1, 2010, the Pearl. Competition breeds excellence, even if it’s on the friendly side. Matador Records proved that when they pit Canadian hardcore band F*cked Up against Washington, D.C., indie punks Ted Leo and the Pharmacists for a Matador at 21 fest show where the real winners were the fans. –Steven Matview, PunksinVegas.com webmaster

Jane’s Addiction, November 21, 2014, Brooklyn Bowl. The 25th anniversary of Nothing’s Shocking, and I happened to win tickets to that show, which included a private green room performance with me and about nine other people. It was really cool to see childhood heroes playing just a few feet in front of me. I also remember thinking, “Man, I’m taller than all of them.” –Jason Aragon, musician (The Clydesdale/Same Sex Mary)

Neil Young & Crazy Horse, July 26, 2003, the Joint. We arrived expecting Greendale (he’d played the new album every night that tour, except during a truncated Bonnaroo fest set), but when he opened with a hair-raising “Love to Burn,” I began to wonder. By the time Young and his sizzling Horse cohorts ripped through “Sedan Delivery” and “Cowgirl in the Sand,” I knew: Vegas had received the gift of a lifetime, an anything-goes night with a locked-in legend. I dream about it still. –Spencer Patterson, Las Vegas Weekly editor

Welcome the Plague Year, July 22, 2004, Balcony Lights. Welcome to the Plague Year featured members of some of my favorite screamo bands—You and I and Neil Perry. I was blown away to find out that one of their singers was a girl. I was mesmerized and inspired. Each song was an experience; their dynamics kept you completely at their mercy. –Tsvetelina Stefanova, musician (Same Sex Mary)

Grateful Dead, July 26, 1994, Sam Boyd Stadium. The Grateful Dead runs in Las Vegas between 1991 and 1995 are legendary. The city totally transformed, as Deadheads took over for a few days. The Dead always brought a great opening act for the Vegas shows, and in 1994 Traffic, one of my favorite bands, opened up. The Dead played favorites like “Eyes of the World,” “Terrapin Station” and “Saint of Circumstance.” There was nothing like a Grateful Dead concert ... in Las Vegas. –Erik Kabik, photographer

Neil Young made memories at the Joint in 2003.

Neil Young made memories at the Joint in 2003.

Nine Inch Nails, October 16, 1994, Thomas & Mack Center. I scored a ticket in the parking lot. In 1994 a pit was a pit, and the white shirt I wore into the show was black when I left. Reznor had the crowd energized. –Jerry Misko, artist

Roger Daltrey, October 9, 1994, Aladdin Theatre for the Performing Arts. Four-fifths of the then-current Who, a 30-piece orchestra, a magnificent Quadrophenia set and John Entwistle’s birthday combined for an unforgettable night. Between the short notice and Sunday-night booking, only about 2,500 turned out to see a most fulfilling show. –Dennis Mitchell, Breakfast With The Beatles host/Las Vegas Weekly contributor

Garth Brooks, August 14, 1998, Thomas & Mack Center. I waited in line at Ticketmaster for four hours, and lucked into great seats when they added a second show. It was a rock concert with a country superstar. An awesome production. –Laura Herlovich, publicist

BBR, July 15, 2015, Vinyl. If you haven’t seen Alice: A Steampunk Concert Fantasy yet, you’ve been missing the coolest, avant-garde production to ever hit Vegas. This is what every Cirque show aspires to be—a full-blown production along the lines of a classic rock opera, The insanely talented 10-piece band is the driving heart of the show, blowing you away with incredible rearrangements of such classics as “Paint It Black,” “Diamond Dogs” and “Ring of Fire.” Add to that a stunning cast of gorgeous singers and dancers, and you get true 21st century Vegas entertainment as it should be. –Lon Bronson, bandleader/musician (Lon Bronson All-Star Band)

Compiled by Corlene Byrd, Spencer Patterson, Mike Prevatt and Leslie Ventura.

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